A Decade of Changes in our Visits to Costa Rica

Our current stay in Costa Rica has given us the the time to consider the stark contrast with our first visit here in 2007. The changes in our lives over that time have made us look at travel quite differently.

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Our son, Erik at 12 years in 2008 during our second visit

We had booked a ten day package that included stops in Tortuguero, Arenal and Flamingo Beach with plenty of activities at each. It was the first winter vacation for all three of us away from the beaches of the Caribbean and Florida. We arrived sick, never shook off the bronchitis we were fighting but went straight out anyway and fell in love with Costa Rica.

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Yes, that’s us at the back of the raft

Those were the days when two weeks was all we had, perhaps twice a year if we were lucky, and it seemed important to cram as much as possible into that short period of time. As a result we often returned home as tired and stressed as when we left. Plus we had to save for the next six months to pay it all off.

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Manuel Antonio in 2008

The more we travel the more we have found that we are not much different from many of the travelers of our age. For most, it has only been since their 50s that they have had either the time or the money to be able to travel in the way that they choose. A recent article in Intrepid Travels, The Journal, by fellow Canadian Alison Armstrong provides some excellent insight on changing attitudes to travel as we age.


An expat band performing in Atenas

There are an increasing number of digital nomads and others who find a way to fund their travels at an early age. We continue to be amazed and surprised by the sheer number and diversity of long term travelers “out there” and by their determination to experience the world on their own terms. Some of the lifestyles are at odds with our preferences but for the most part we applaud their curiosity and ingenuity.


This restaurant and cafe in Cuenca, Ecuador targets the large expat community there

Back to the present, we have been perfectly content to relax at our hilltop house in Atenas, Costa Rica for the past three weeks. We don’t feel the need to explore, to fit in, or tick off boxes in a guide book. Although there are literally years of exploration left in this beautiful country we can choose to return if the timing is right.


The very pleasant Central Mercado in Atenas

We are of course older now but by far the biggest change is in our lifestyle. Gone are work commitments, looking after the house and yard, and meeting the expectations of modern North American society. Of course many people are quite content without making the dramatic changes we have, but it has certainly changed our approach to, and appreciation for life.


Blue grosebeak – Atenas

One major change we have noticed since we began this journey is that there is no longer the sense of wanting something more. This not only applies to all the “stuff” like clothes, gadgets, cars etc. but also to travel. Of course we would love to be able to indulge in an extended African safari, pamper ourselves at an over-water bungalow in the South Pacific, or cruise the Caribbean for an entire year but those are just fantasies that we may or may not make reality.


We were able to make a trip to the Amazon a reality this year

Our current lifestyle has given us much more freedom and mobility. If we don’t like the weather it will always change, or we can move. If we don’t like the neighbourhood we can easily change that too. And perhaps what is most important is that if we enjoy where we are and the people we are with we can stay longer or return.


Enjoying lunch in Cordoba, Spain with great friends we met in Portugal


The fabulous Markham family – Family Feud winners on New Year’s Eve in Lagos, Portugal

It is these type of relatively simple concepts that have made our minds lighter, our bodies healthier, and allowed us to enjoy more of the simple things that are so often right in front of us. We certainly enjoyed the Eiffel Tower, the museums of London, the remarkable castles of Sintra, and the breathtaking cathedrals of Seville and Cordoba. But apart from all of these wondrous sights perhaps what stands out most are the cafes of Spain and Portugal, the natural wonders of the Amazon, the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean from the cliffs of Cabo de Sao Vicente, Portugal, and the stunning wildlife of Costa Rica.


Relaxing on a warm December day in Silves, Portugal


Headland near Cabo de Sao Vicente, Portugal

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Channel-billed Toucan – Cuyabeno Reserve, Ecuador

As we enjoy the fabulous view across the Central Valley in Costa Rica from our rental home in Atenas we have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly times go by without feeling the need to do more or have more.



Watching young doves hatch, fledge and leave their nest, excitedly spotting a different species of trogon, or simply marveling at the changing cloud formations above the volcanoes in the distance all relax our minds and give us peace and contentment. Daily swims provide physical activity, twice a week we venture into town to pick up groceries and practice our Spanish, we communicate with friends and family from the comfort of our open living room, and this is enough for now.


Keel-billed toucan – Atenas


Our backyard oasis

In a few days Erik and his girlfriend arrive and we will do some exploring and share with them some of the beauty of this country before we head south to our house sit in Playa Matapalo. We feel relaxed, comfortable and secure in the knowledge that we are living our life the way we choose and that the future is ours to shape in the way that suits us best.

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From Atenas we head to the southern beaches for six weeks of house sitting

We have plans in place to return to Portugal this summer that hopefully will work out, but for now life is good. We will take our new attitude with us and enjoy the time and opportunity that we have – beyond that it is hard to predict – and what this life has in store for us remains to be written. As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida (Pure Life!).


Looking westward towards the coast from Aljezur, Portugal


About Tim & Anne Hall

We sold almost all of our belongings and left our home in Nova Scotia in April 2016 to experience as much of the world as we could. We spent over a year slow traveling in Latin America and Europe, and are now living happily in the Portuguese Algarve, Portimao to be specific. We are gradually chnging the focus of our site to feature images of Portugal. Stay tuned - its a work in progress.
This entry was posted in Central America, Slow Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A Decade of Changes in our Visits to Costa Rica

  1. Gilda Baxter says:

    Sounds like you have found inner happiness and contentment, a rare commodity these days. I can relate to how stressful holidays can be, when you only have a restricted amount of time there is a guilty feeling if you don’t tick all the boxes. For me to have more time to myself would be lovely, also to travel without time constraints. I hope that by the end of this year the dream will be a reality. Keep enjoying life 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      Thanks Gilda. It makes such a huge difference when you are able to not feel guilty for just relaxing in a place you like for a week or two. This is the most time we have taken for that since we left last year and it feels very good. We will be hoping that you guys are able to make it work for you this year. Cheers!


  2. kemkem says:

    Sounds like a hard earned idyllic and wonderful life. Good for you. This post resonates because we feel the same way. The need to rush about and tick the boxes is not there. We are okay with returning to places we like. We are okay with moving when the urge hits. Life has become more meaningful and we are enjoying ourselves. It’s so cool that your little boy has now grown into a man with a girlfriend and will return to add to your memories :-).

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      Thanks Kemkem. We can see a lot of our own travel preferences in the way that you guys approach it as well. It took time and a lot of work to get to this point, but is definitely worth the effort if this type of lifestyle appeals to you. We’re looking forward to Erik getting here (in just a few hours now). Last year he joined us in Costa Rica and Lisbon. We’re really happy you got a new place – it looks great.


  3. Love those wide open mouths on that whitewater rafting ride that so convey the thrill of it all! We too had a measly two weeks off annually for a lot years and like you, would return home many times tireder than we left as we tried to cram as much into that time as possible. Not having to keep a clock, approaching things at our own pace and answering to no one but ourselves has made our lifestyle the true golden years! Your bird photos are amazing and I think you’ve re-awakened my inner bird watcher. I may be inviting myself along on your walks! Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      It seems like such a long time ago that travel was the rushing off to one place or another for a week or two which didn’t allow for enough time to either get to know a place or relax. It did open our eyes to the the possibilities for travel and different perspectives on many aspects of life so it was a good starting point. Even now, we are still working on slowing down, becoming more observant choosing our destinations better. So yes, this is a wonderful time of life for us. As far as birding goes, it is a great addition to travel and everyday life. It can be very simple and really does add another dimension to experiencing an area. There are many great birding areas in the Algarve that we are itching to visit, so get your walking shoes on.


  4. What a great article. The way you are living in Atenas reminds me so much of the time we spent in La Manzanilla in Mexico. Sometimes you just find the right place to stop for a while. The photo of the keel-billed toucan is fabulous. I can only imagine the thrill of seeing that in the wild. Thanks for linking to my Intrepid article. One of these days we will finally get to Costa Rica!

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      Thank you Alison. Atenas suits us well for a relaxing break as it is just the right size, has everything we need and the climate here is very pleasant. The only problem with our house on the hill here is that it is straight up and down so we don’t get as much walking in as we normally would, so it’s more laps in the pool. We’re off to an 8 km beach this weekend with a reserve nearby so we will get plenty off walking in there. Take care of yourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

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